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Nacogdoches History

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Nacogdoches is nestled in the piney woods of Deep East Texas and is located about 140 miles NNE of Houston, 180 miles SE of Dallas and 90 miles SW of Shreveport. Nacogdoches has been entwined in the history of this region for thousands of years.

The earliest known people to call Nacogdoches home was around 10,000 years ago when the Nacogdoche Tribe of Caddo Indians used this area as their main village, Nevantin.

The first Europeans to settle in Nacogdoches were in 1716 when the Spanish established the Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe De los Nacogdoches Mission here. In 1772, Spain decided that the mission was too costly to maintain and that France was no longer a threat. All the settlers were forced to move to San Antonio. In the spring of 1779, Colonel Antonio Gil Y'Barbo, a well-known Spanish trader, lead a group of settlers back to Nacogdoches.

Y'Barbo Statue

Y'Babro Statute downtown

Later that year, Mexico designated Nacogdoches as a town, thus making it the oldest town in Texas.

Laws were established and a town government set up. Y’Barbo was named lieutenant governor. He laid out many new streets. Two main roads, El Camino Real (now State Highway 21)and La Calle del Norte (North Street), are still main thoroughfares today. He built a stone house for use in his trading business that soon took on a public nature since both private and public business was conducted here. The Old Stone Fort, as it is called today, became a gateway from the United States to the vast Texas frontier.

Stone Fort Museum

Stone Fort Museum

Settling in Texas in 1835, Thomas Jefferson Rusk became one of the most famous early Nacogdoches Anglo settlers. Rusk was a veteran of the Texas Revolution, hero of the Battle of San Jacinto, he signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, and was secretary of war during the Republic of Texas. He was president of the Texas Statehood Commission and served as one of the two first Texas Senators along with Sam Houston in 1846.

Old University Building

Old University Building on Mound Street

Rusk worked to establish Nacogodches University in 1845. The old university building still stands today and is maintained by local volunteers including docents from Nacogdoches Newcomers and Friends.

Adolphus Sterne was a wealthy German merchant who maintained the finest home in Nacogdoches. Frequently visited by famous luminaries such as Sam Houston, Thomas Rusk, Chief Bowles, David Crockett and many others, his diary offers one of the best sources for early Nacogdoches history.

Sterne-Hoya Museum

House of Adolphus Sterne

Today, Nacogdoches hosts 29,914 residents. Stephen F. Austin State University adds nearly 13,000 more residents to the mix. With its soaring pine trees, magnificent spring colors, azaleas, dogwoods, stunning trails, and gardens, Nacogdoches is a beautiful place to call home.

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